With all the reunification celebrations taking place, I figured that one more Jerusalem column can’t hurt. Here’s a little vignette to illustrate my Jerusalem Syndrome.
Besides my childhood, I lived in Israel from 1999 to 2007; at some point during that period, negotiations on giving up East Jerusalem and the Temple Mount were intensifying.
I was beside myself.
Each day as I walked to work I would pass the window of a Judaica shop. There was this beautiful menorah; its foreground had petite thimble-sized glass cups with just enough room to slide a wick in and kindle it. It was shaped by the finest silver arc, almost thread-like, with silhouettes of different sized and shaped Jerusalem-domed buildings in an array of colored glass, all under a golden setting sun, hanging by a thread. It was exquisite. Like nothing I had seen before.
As the negotiations for Jerusalem intensified and I kept passing this menorah, somehow in my mind they became intertwined as one. I dreamed of buying that menorah. But I was an idealistic Israeli newbie and could hardly afford what to me was a small fortune of $250 for a menorah. I had just completed an unpaid internship and was still in the “is it a want or a need” phase of life before buying anything.
But each day as the news about dividing Jerusalem became more dire, I started looking at it as a symbol of my Jerusalem; I imaged myself, teary-eyed, wistfully telling little children one day, “you know in my time, when, after thousands of years, we had Jerusalem again…”
That was it. When I hit that low, I succumbed. I figured out a way to buy the luminescent menorah. I needed to have my version of a “Yerushalayim shel Zahav,” Jerusalem of Gold, with me at home.
A few weeks later, my parents and little brother joined me for Chanukah. That year, there truly was this sense of Jerusalem being in trouble. Jerusalem was literally empty. Her streets and shops, deserted.
We lit that arced stained glass menorah in Jerusalem. Between the quality of the colored stained glass and the dancing flames shining upon this little suspended Jerusalem, it was magical.
Meanwhile, the negotiations hadn’t relented. If anything, they intensified. As they suddenly took an accelerated turn, hundreds of thousands of Israelis, almost like a primal outpouring, gathered in the streets of Jerusalem to show that the people of Israel stand with Jerusalem, eternally. This massive demonstration was organized in a matter of mere days.
Backtrack to the previous summer, when I randomly introduced two people who, happily, had become engaged. A day or two before this Stand With Jerusalem evening was to take place, there was a knock on my door. Ever so kindly, yet surprisingly, the family of the groom delivered by courier an airline ticket for me to be a guest at the wedding.
There I was, living and breathing Jerusalem, waiting to join thousands of my people in solidarity,” le-ma’an Yerushalayim, for the sake of Jerusalem. Yet it is not everyday that someone treats you to an international trip. If you think purchasing the menorah was a big deal for me, you can only imagine how special a trip to the U.S. would have been, not to mention joining in the festivities of a wedding so special to me.
I was torn. A trip to America! But there was Jerusalem to consider.
The flight was literally booked for the night of this demonstration. It felt unreal to me. So many people coming from all over the country, almost pilgrimage-like, to Jerusalem, and for the sake of Jerusalem — and I’m going in the opposite direction? It felt so wrong.
How can I walk away from Jerusalem in her hour of need. How can I not stand with my people, with my Jerusalem? How can I look myself in the eye and miss out on this momentum together with my people and for my people?
I had never had to fight for Jerusalem. This time, it felt like we would all have to fight to keep Jerusalem. Of course I was one person. My presence at the demonstration would hardly register. But that wasn’t the whole point. The point was Jerusalem. But it was me, too.
I went back and forth. A friend of mine thought I was nuts. We would speak intermittently, and she would just ask, “so, you’re going?” Finally, she just ordered a Nesher taxi, told me to pack and be at her apartment at such and such time to be picked up for the airport.
With a heavy heart, I packed. I arrived at her apartment. But I couldn’t go. I canceled the Nesher.
By now it was sunset. We walked out to the streets of Jerusalem; they were already spilling over with people in the tens of thousands. The roads from the Old City and all the way to the Plaza Hotel were crammed. Not a spare inch to be found.
On that night, I joined the multitudes and became just one more person who stood with Jerusalem Eternal.
Each Chanukah thereafter, in Jerusalem, I kindled my own little domed-Jerusalem menorah, suspended by silver thread under an arc and a glowing golden sun that shone by the dancing Chanukah flames.
Copyright Intermountain Jewish News